Saturday, May 31, 2008


Everyone has been complaining about the lack of posts. Sorry about that. I've been busy with marriage, gardening, marathon training and the mayor's office. I think we should all come to grips with the fact that I'm going to be one of these post-every-couple-weeks-with-a-laundry-list-post kind of bloggers. Much as that sucks.

First, marriage. Allie and I are doing great. Very much in love. Which is all too vast and personal and wonderful to express in this forum. We're slowly remodeling the kitchen.

Second, gardening. We've been eating lettuce and radishes for weeks now. Got some chard that's ready to pick. In early spring we had some nice over-winter spinach that was fabulous. Now all the hot weather plants are in the ground -- tomatoes, peppers, okra, beans, eggplant, ground cherries, various herbs. And the asparagus I planted a while back has come up and now we've got some wispy little trees here and there. Over Memorial Day weekend I spent many hours out in the yard, listening to audiobooks and just loving every minute of it.

With the running, I'm still technically in my recovery period after the Flying Pig. Official training for Chicago doesn't start for a couple of weeks. But I've pretty much already started laying the foundation. My plan for Chicago is to run three days a week, and bike and do strength training the other three. For the three running days, I'll do two with some sort of speed or agility/stride training and one long run. I've been doing this schedule for about two weeks now and I'm actually feeling myself get stronger. I also seem to have bumped up a notch on the speed meter. I'm now clicking along at less than 10 minutes a mile, once I get warmed up. That's pretty encouraging.

In the mayor's office, it's been very exciting. As a candidate, Mark campaigned for a regional transit system built around light rail. Once in office, he started really pushing it. Soon it became his number one priority. All along the way the newspaper and political smart people have been basically calling him a fool saying there's no way you can get a regional, multi-county system approved by voters all at once. They've all been saying you have to start with a "starter line" -- a short showpiece running from downtown to some of the tourist attractions. "Every other city has done it that way," they say.

Well, they think he's nuts, and we think they're out of touch with the mood of the public. And we finally got to prove it. We were able to have a poll conducted which showed overwhelming support for the concept of a regional system and better-than-50-percent support for a sales tax for that concept. Light rail has never polled that well in KC (except once when it was on the ballot as an impossible plan to span the whole city with no tax increase, which was later repealed). What's more, the "starter line" concept polled miserably.

So we had a chance to gloat around the office knowing all the political wisdom was wrong and we were right. Of course, the know-it-alls haven't admitted this. They've either continue insisting that a starter line is the best way to go, even though all evidence suggests it'll lose, or they act like they agreed with us all along.

Kind of fun, kind of infuriating.

So now the push is to try to get it on the November ballot. To do that, we have to convince three county legislatures to go for it which remains a pretty daunting task at the time of this writing. But yesterday we hosted a summit of local elected officials and about half of them agreed that November's the best time to do it. Others want to wait until next year.

Either way, the mayor is big winner. Let's say he "fails" to get it on this year's ballot, and it's delayed a year. That's still years and years ahead of how conventional political wisdom had things going. They said that we'd only get a regional system after KCMO approves, builds and gets up and running a small starter line. Once the outlying communities see how cool it is, the wisdom goes, they'll want it for themselves. Considering that it'll take at least 7 years to get the first segment up and running, you're looking at well over a decade before the region is on board.

But now, thanks to the skyrocketing cost of gas and the frenzy for "green" solutions, and the mayor's dogged determination, the entire debate has shifted and the timeline has accelerated.

So consider this. The two previous mayors each served two terms. They both had "legacy" projects -- big ticket developments like an arena, downtown entertainment district, improvements to Brush Creek, etc. All of these things happened in their second terms and they were Kansas City-only projects in the hundreds of millions. Now it's looking highly likely that this mayor will have pushed for and won a $1.2 billion, possibly $1.8 billion project done in collaboration with three counties and nearly 50 municipalities -- barely halfway through his first term.

And there will be no disputing that this is his initiative. In the early stages it was only him pushing it -- driving in his Toyota to distant suburbs to meet with mayors to sell the idea, taking constant hits from the newspaper and those in the political know. They all came out on the record, saying loudly and clearly that it was a bad idea, that it would fail, yadda yadda yadda.

During our first year, when things were rocky, all the people "in the know" were saying this mayor's a failure, a one-termer. There was talk of a recall effort, then a silly ill-fated one, and a lot of these folks -- including newspaper columnists -- thought it was plausible. I think a lot these folks still think he's a bumbling mayor, that his chances of reelection are slim. But I'm telling you, they are drunk on conformity. By the end of his first term, this mayor will have so many accomplishments, will have such enormous name recognition, that there will be no way any of these tired old power players will have a chance to beat him.

There. How's that for a rant. Good thing this blog is by invitation only, huh?

Monday, May 05, 2008

the pig has flown

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I finished my second marathon of the year on Sunday. It was fun, but the last two miles were pure agony.

Allie and I drove to the Cincinnati area on Friday. We stayed with her friend Amy.

On Saturday we went to the new Ikea. It was overwhelming. Afterward we drove into Cincinnati. I went to the race expo, and then they dropped me off at a hotel so I could get to the race more easily in the morning. There was a Narcotics Anonymous convention at the hotel, and they were partying in the pool area, right below my window. But I put in earplugs, turned the TV on static and slept with a pillow over my head. That did the trick.

The next morning, on my way to the race, I bought a Sharpee. After I parked my car near the race, I wrote on my running singlet "JOE from K.C. MO." This turned out to be a very wise move.

We started by Paul Brown Stadium, where the Bengals play. The start was delayed 15 minutes. None of us knew why.

With a gun blast, the race began. We crossed a beautiful bridge just as the sun was rising. Then, a couple miles later, we crossed back on another bridge with a beautiful view of downtown. By the time we got to the skyscrapers, the crowd had spread out a bit. There were a lot of people lining the streets. With the crowd thinned somewhat, spectators could see my shirt and they started to cheer for me. It was surreal. We were running into the morning sun and the people on the sidewalks were silhouetted but they were all calling my name as if they knew me or I were the most popular person in south Ohio.

We climbed a long hill into a lovely park overlooking the city and the Ohio River. Then we passed through a trendy area where Allie and Amy were waiting for me to pass.

A little ways later, I saw several runners huddled by the side of the road. As I approached, I noticed they were surrounding someone who was laying on the ground. A few more steps and I made out a couple people kneeling over him pumping his chest and blowing into his mouth. As I passed, I saw that his face was purple.

This was an unsettling sight, to say the least, especially at such a fun, silly event. There were all kinds of people out cheering the runners on (me in particular, by name). A lot of them wore flying pig paraphernalia. I high-fived a human-sized pig and an equally tall chicken. There were pirates serving water and Gatorade in one spot, and beach bums in another.

I did the run-walk thing for the first 8 miles, then I decided to run between the aid stations. My goal was to break 5 hours.

I had to pee three times in the first half, so I was pretty far behind schedule. But as I ran, I seemed to be gaining ground. At mile 20, I passed the five-hour pace group. I thought for sure I had it in the bag.

At mile 22, I passed the guy in the full-body shark costume.

Then, at 23 or 24, I hit the wall big time.

By the time I got to the 25.2 mile mark, where the guy said, "Just one more mile to go," I exclaimed, "Fuck it!" and started to w Just then, a woman who was passing me turned and said, "Come on, Joe! I've been hearing your name the whole way. You can't give up now."

So I willed my body into a pathetic, painful shuffle and forced myself toward the finish line. At first, it looked really close, and I felt relieved. Then it telescoped away, like a dream sequence in a bad 70s tv show. At the 26 mile mark, I suddenly heard Allie and Amy. I looked over at them just as I was passing. They would later say that they were worried I was angry at them. That's how bad I looked.

When we got home, I looked up my official time. 5:02:56.

I was dumbfounded. How could I run all that way and make up so little time over Austin?

The next morning, on our way home, we picked up a local newspaper. On the front page was about the man I saw fallen on the side of the road. Allie read it to me as I drove. I was happy to learn that he survived.

Allie also read the news that the race had been delayed because of a house fire on the course. This caused a last-minute change in the route which added at least a quarter mile. My face brightened.

"That means I probably broke five hours!"

We'll see. It's going to be close.